Open Enrollment for 2012 begins on Saturday, October 15, and ends on Wednesday, December 7, 2011.
Day 9: Making a list and checking your Part D plan twice
With the Fall Open Enrollment period quickly approaching, it’s time to review your current Medicare prescription drug plan and make a list of questions you’ll need to ask if you choose to look for a new plan.
As I’ve shared with you before, it’s super important to review your Part D plan every year, because private Medicare plan sponsors can change their costs and the list of drugs that they cover every year. And even if you’re happy with your current plan, you should still check every to see if there is another plan in your region that offers a lower total cost for your medications.
• How large is the plan’s formulary? You want to make sure the plan offers a comprehensive formulary (list of covered drugs) that provides coverage for the majority of commonly prescribed medications.
• Are my drugs covered? Next, check to see that the drugs you take on a regular basis (at least 3 months or more) are covered under the plan’s formulary.
• Does the plan pay any of my costs during the Coverage Gap stage? During the Coverage Gap stage (donut hole), you are responsible for paying most of your drug costs. Some plans, however, offer additional coverage in the Gap, which could help you save money if you take many medications. Types of additional coverage can include:
o Low co-payments for generic drugs when you use a retail pharmacy
o $0 co-payments for generic drugs when you use a mail-order pharmacy
o Full coverage in the Gap (a few plans, such as some employer-sponsored plans, do not have a Coverage Gap stage)
• Does the plan have a mail-order pharmacy with free delivery? Not only is mail order with free home delivery very convenient if you’re taking medications on a long-term basis, but mail-order pharmacies often cost significantly less than a retail pharmacy. (For example, you may be able to get a 3-month supply of drugs by mail for the same price as a 1-month supply at a retail pharmacy.)
• Can I compare my drug prices online? Many plans have cost-comparison tools on their websites, which let you compare your drug costs with available lower-cost medications that may also be right for you.
• Does the plan offer Coverage Gap alerts? Some plans offer notifications by e-mail, phone, or website to let you know how close you are to the Gap and how you can save on the medications you take regularly.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about some programs that are available to help you pay for your prescription drug costs if you have a limited income.